Another year is in the books for one of the largest broadcast and technology conferences in the world, the International Broadcast Conference (IBC). Attendance again broke records with nearly 56,000 people visiting the show over this past weekend. Year after year, this exhibition (and its American sibling, NAB) serves as a launchpad for hundreds of new products, innovations and new trends that help shape the ways through which broadcasters, programmers and service providers reach viewers on all screens. So here are my observations from IBC 2016:
The Ad-Supported Experience. If you’ve read nearly anything about over-the-top (OTT) video delivery in the past several months, then you’ve likely heard about ad blockers and their impact on viewers and streams. As more viewers install ad blockers on their devices and browsers, viewing experiences are generally being degraded, and revenue is taking massive hits. At Brightcove, we are working with our customers and industry thought leaders to deliver best practices to enable technologically advanced workflows that maximize revenue while maintaining the highest levels of quality for our customer’s viewers. At IBC 2016, we published a research brief that shows that the viewing audience has experienced a good deal of frustration and disruption with the ad experience and would like to see the ad experience improve. In many conversations I’ve had with a variety of customers and video service providers, most agree that the ad experience is necessary and acceptable; poor experience and disruption is not. At the show, our Mark Blair spoke to MediaWorks NZ’s Tom Cotter about how server-side ad insertion (SSAI) has transformed their workflow and is generating significant revenue and return on investment.
OTT Has Evolved. Speaking of investment and value, another prevalent theme at IBC was how OTT services and offerings are moving from cost centers to profit centers. Just a few short years ago, the industry saw media brands racing to stand up streaming services in an effort to reach their audiences on the rapidly growing universe of smartphone screens. But by and large, these efforts were not viewed as investments that would generate revenue - almost an homage to Kevin Costner’s line in Field of Dreams, ‘if you build it, he will come.’ Boy, how things have changed. Today’s OTT world is one in which most conversations we have with media brands, broadcasters and service providers begin with monetization (in the form of DAI & subscriptions). Despite its sometime detractors, OTT product offerings have rapidly moved from digital pennies to dimes. Rest assured - dollars aren’t that far away, just ask Titus Bicknell.
Brightcove is seeing a high level of interest in OTT from media customers big and small; in fact, Brightcove OTT Flow - powered by Accedo, which is a cost-effective, turnkey solution that enables organizations to get their OTT services up and running in a matter of weeks, won the CSI award for Best Internet TV Technology or Service.
Analytics. In order to sell advertising elements in and around video content, you must be able to properly measure streams to see how they are performing and how the audience is watching. One trending area of emphasis I observed at IBC 2016 was measurement & analytics. While this isn’t a new concept, companies are improving the depth and breadth of data available to provide better visibility into the video experience. If my viewer is watching my authenticated video experience over the top through their service provider and the stream has playback issues - what does the data say? If I need to be able to agree with my advertisers on how much of the campaign they ran with me was actually “in view” do I have the proper data for that? I shared some ideas with customers at the show and talked through how this is a compelling area for innovation in the near future.
Advances in preparation and delivery. One concept I saw frequently was content-aware encoding. The high level idea here is that the encoding component of your video workflow is intelligent enough to analyze the video in-frame and make conscious decisions about how to budget for and allocate bits to the video on a frame by frame basis. For example, a scene with air-to-air combat will require a great deal more bits than one with a talking head. Not only can this concept reduce the amount of data required to compress and deliver video, but can also reduce the number of renditions in the ladder of an encoding recipe. For starters, this idea will be much more effective and beneficial for on-demand content, but there are some scenarios where it could be brought to bear on live workflows, too.
Another not so new concept that I heard discussed a good deal was real-time packaging. In this scenario, your workflow is intelligently detecting the type of platform requesting a stream, then packaging the content and conditioning it specifically for the requesting device(s). This approach has a multitude of benefits including less content to create, store and deliver.
All of these ideas and innovations are part of why this space and its marquee events are so electric. IBC 2016 was no exception and as the thousands in attendance can attest, it has never been a more exciting time to work in and around video. Game on.